'In a joint CCO role, you are only as good as your partner’

In e4m’s new series – Power Sharing – Prateek Bhardwaj, Chief Creative Officer at Lowe Lintas, explains why being a 'Joint' CCO is more about sharing responsibilities that shape an agency's culture

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: Oct 14, 2020 9:47 AM
Prateek Bharadwaj

When the call came from Lintas, it wasn’t the first time that he was given an opportunity to head an ad agency. Why then did Prateek Bhardwaj, now CCO of Lowe Lintas, pick the agency where he was expected to share the top leadership role with Sagar Kapoor. Bhardwaj explains in a detailed interview on the power-sharing dynamics and its importance for an agency of the size of Lowe Lintas.  

What was your first reaction when you were told that you are going to be made the ‘Joint’ CCO of Lowe Lintas?

Who’s the other guy? That was my first question. You see you’re only as good as your partner. This isn’t a role where you compete with each other; here you are sharing the responsibility of shaping an agency’s culture. And for that, mutual respect and trust are crucial. While I didn’t know Sagar at that time, our first few interactions made me very comfortable, and I was convinced I was making the right decision. 

When you were climbing up the corporate ladder, did you ever factor in the possibility of having to share the top role with someone?

Well, kind of. There’s enough precedence for this setup. And larger agencies do need the joint setup to manage the workload. I’ve been offered opportunities to lead solo but the agencies were much smaller. With the CCO’s role demanding more ‘hands-on-ness’, it’s almost mandatory for large agencies to have partners to share the load.  

How do you share responsibilities at the agency, who does what?

While we’ve got our brands and teams neatly divided, there’s still a lot that demands our shared attention. Setting the agenda for the work, deciding the people mix we want to evolve, developing our awards strategy, all these are agency-level goals and discussions that we have our conversations on. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a partner at the top in the same seat?

Most people in Lintas go back a long way. They all have shared histories and own the organisation culture much more than someone like me does. Since I’ve been new to the system, I have turned to Sagar a lot for advice on handling people issues and situations. 

Would you say Lowe Lintas has performed better after the two of you were given the joint responsibility vs. when you had one leader leading it?

I think there’s been a huge change in the way the agency has been functioning, and it has nothing to do with the leadership. It’s all about Covid-19. The pandemic and its aftermath have really affected the way we have been working, forcing us all to learn new styles together. I’d like to believe that we are one of the few companies that have managed this change well, and this whole experience has made us stronger. 

They always say for the team members it is always easier to follow the vision of one leader. How do you overcome the confusion that comes with having two different ways of functioning?

Sometimes, we have people helping out on each other’s brands. That’s when the comparisons come out. People who usually work with me come back raving about Sagar’s style of work. Apparently, he is much more relaxed than me, or at least that’s what my team alleges. 

Personally, do you think other creative agencies should have one CCO at the top or a joint leadership like in your case?

It really depends on the size and the nature of the role. The bigger the agency, and the more hands-on the role, the more the chances that one will need multiple leaders at the top.

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